Friday, July 6, 2012

Throwing out the first pitch - what a remarkable experience

Hello everyone,

Yesterday is over but it was an amazing experience. I want to thank my family, my friends and all of those with the Suntrust Club and with the Atlanta Braves who were very cordial to me and my family.

We got to the stadium around 6 as I was running a little late. It's a good thing that my wife may be the best driver in metro Atlanta. After running around the stadium, I finally found my contact with the Braves. They sat me down near the dugout and I talked to long time usher and a celebrity in Atlanta, Walter Banks. He knows the history of the Braves like no other.

As I looked at the field, I remembered that day back in June of 1987 when I took the field at Fulton County Stadium for the first time as a batboy for the Braves. None of the players or coaches from that game were in attendance in 2012 and this was even a different stadium but the feeling was similar. I'd watched thousands of games at Fulton County when I made my debut and I'd watched even more games at Turner Field before I made my debut last night. It was a true thrill.

Finally at 6:53pm EST I walked onto the field and waited for them to call my name. I then jumped over the baseline (my salute to Turk Wendell for baseball fans) and got to the mound where relief pitcher Anthony Varvaro would be catching the pitch. I am not going to lie. I was a little disappointed that it wasn't McCann, Beachy or Chipper but I knew Beachy couldn't do it due to his arm (he just had Tommy John surgery) as his agent called but he told me that Beachy was with me in spirit. I thought it was so nice for Rob to call me and also for Brandon to tell me he was behind me for the pitch. Those 2 guys are second to none. Brandon had planned to catch the pitch long ago until he had to have the surgery. I know that Chipper had other obligations and McCann had to get ready to catch. Thanks to Anthony Varvaro for coming out and catching the pitch. I hope you become a big star.

When I got to the mound, I wound my arm in a big circle and reversed my cap (a salute to Bill Murray). I watched about 100 ceremonial first pitches over the last week to get some fun ideas but really the only fun ones I found were guys who couldn't get the ball over the plate. I wanted to make my friends and family proud so I got ready to throw and then realized what a lonely feeling it is on the mound. You can feel every small gust of wind. The mound seems like it's 500 feet away from the plate instead of the actual 60 feet, 6 inches. I was worried I would not make it. It reminded me of being a kid and climbing to the top of the high dive for the first time and thinking how far down the water looked.

Instead of worrying about throwing it over the plate for a strike, I just worried about getting it to Varvaro's glove without it bouncing into the dirt. I had thought about so many funny things I wanted to do like:

a) Doing the double somersault like Aroldis Chapman of the Cincinnati Reds.
b) Running the bases and throwing the ball to the guy catching my pitch and have him try to tag me out ala Bill Murray.
or even:
c) Throwing the ball sidearm like Peter Moylan of the Braves.

You know what. No one was going to remember what I did as long as I got the ball over the plate without bouncing it. Mission accomplished. It was high and outside but it got there. The late Eric Gregg would have called it a strike (a little Livan Hernandez humor there). I have to thank my friend Josh Lembeck for giving me the advice of not aiming; just throw the ball like I always do. That was my thought process when I let the ball go.

It was especially cool to have my kids there and to get all the e-mails and texts from family and friends. I have to say this is the most nervous I've ever been for an athletic event. I always thought that honor would go to the Olympic Torch relay from 2001 but seeing my kids smiling at me and signing I love you made me especially anxious as I did not want to let them down.

I attached a picture of me going out to the mound and another of several of my friends and family who came out to the game. I also attached a picture of the dessert my kids earned for being good last night. Thanks Andrea for taking some amazing pictures and taking a great video which I'll share soon and of course for being an amazing wife. Thanks Emily for getting the amazing seats and for being a wonderful sister. Thanks mom and dad for getting everyone tickets, for being amazing parents and for getting me the opportunity to throw out the first pitch. Thanks to my friends for coming out and supporting me (including my friend Paula who came in all the way from Texas). You witnessed a dream come true yesterday. Thanks to Ethan and Avery for giving me the 2 best kids that a dad could ask for (Thanks Andrea for that as well as you played a big role). I am truly blessed to have all of you in my life.

I hope that everyone has a good weekend.

Andy (the 6th man in the Braves rotation - Fredi, I'm available if you're desperate)

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